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      Optimism, pessimism, and bias in self-reported body weight among older adults

      Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)

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          Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity (BMI≥30) are often derived from self-reported weight and height; psychological dispositions may bias how participants report these physical characteristics. The present research uses a large national sample of U.S. adults to examine the correspondence between reported and measured body weight and height and to test whether optimists and pessimists misreport their weight/height in ways that are consistent with their worldviews.


          Participants in the Health and Retirement Study ( N=11,207) reported their weight and height and completed a measure of dispositional optimism and pessimism; trained interviewers measured participants’ weight and height.


          There was a high correlation between measured and reported weight ( r=.98) and height ( r=.92). Consistent with their positive and negative worldviews, respectively, optimists underreported and pessimists over-reported their weight. There was not a consistent association with misreported height. Optimism and pessimism were also associated with actual BMI and risk of obesity, but the protective/risk effects were amplified when using reported weight to derive BMI.


          These findings suggest that reported body weight tends to be accurate, but that biases associated with psychological dispositions may inflate the relation between the disposition and obesity. Such biases may extend to associations with other self-reported factors thought to be related to optimism and pessimism.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Distinguishing optimism from neuroticism (and trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem): a reevaluation of the Life Orientation Test.

          Research on dispositional optimism as assessed by the Life Orientation Test (Scheier & Carver, 1985) has been challenged on the grounds that effects attributed to optimism are indistinguishable from those of unmeasured third variables, most notably, neuroticism. Data from 4,309 subjects show that associations between optimism and both depression and aspects of coping remain significant even when the effects of neuroticism, as well as the effects of trait anxiety, self-mastery, and self-esteem, are statistically controlled. Thus, the Life Orientation Test does appear to possess adequate predictive and discriminant validity. Examination of the scale on somewhat different grounds, however, does suggest that future applications can benefit from its revision. Thus, we also describe a minor modification to the Life Orientation Test, along with data bearing on the revised scale's psychometric properties.
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            A comparison of direct vs. self-report measures for assessing height, weight and body mass index: a systematic review.

            Obesity is a rapidly increasing public health problem, with surveillance most often based on self-reported values of height and weight. We conducted a systematic review to determine what empirical evidence exists regarding the agreement between objective (measured) and subjective (reported) measures in assessing height, weight and body mass index (BMI). Five electronic databases were searched to identify observational and experimental studies on adult populations over the age of 18. Searching identified 64 citations that met the eligibility criteria and examined the relationship between self-reported and directly measured height or weight. Overall, the data show trends of under-reporting for weight and BMI and over-reporting for height, although the degree of the trend varies for men and women and the characteristics of the population being examined. Standard deviations were large indicating that there is a great deal of individual variability in reporting of results. Combining the results quantitatively was not possible because of the poor reporting of outcomes of interest. Accurate estimation of these variables is important as data from population studies such as those included in this review are often used to generate regional and national estimates of overweight and obesity and are in turn used by decision makers to allocate resources and set priorities in health.
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              The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history.


                Author and article information

                Obesity (Silver Spring)
                Obesity (Silver Spring)
                Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)
                23 September 2013
                13 June 2013
                September 2013
                01 March 2014
                : 21
                : 9
                : E508-E511
                Florida State University College of Medicine
                Author notes
                Address correspondence to: Angelina R. Sutin, Ph.D., Florida State University College of Medicine, 1115 W. Call Street, Tallahassee, FL 32306, (850) 645-0438, Fax: (850) 645-1773, angelina.sutin@
                Funded by: National Institute on Aging : NIA
                Award ID: Z99 AG999999 || AG



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